Premier needs primer in the value of universal basic income to the economy

The Star

Doug Ford, premier of Ontario, is poised to kill one of the world’s most ambitious and sophisticated universal basic income pilot projects (UBI), cutting a year off its intended three-year duration. The decision was made last July, soon after the Ford government came to power, and is effective March 31.

Ontario’s new government is able to do that because the UBI project, and its promise to reinvent social assistance and give poor people greater incentive to join the paid workforce, is scarcely known or understood.

UBI is a handup, not a handout. The approximately 4,500 participants in the test communities of Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay receive a no-strings-attached basic income equal to just 75 per cent of Ontario’s low-income, or poverty, threshold of $22,653 in 2017 when the project was launched.

Participants in the UBI project are not punished with the loss of their social assistance when they get a paid job, unlike the current system. For recipients who are not part of the project, social assistance payments are scaled back about 50 cents for every dollar earned in employment income. But a basic income is guaranteed, removing the disincentive to join the workforce.

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